Talent On Tap – Doralynn Mui Creates a Wave on Riverdale

Many of us think we can do what actors do. We tell ourselves that it’s just a matter of time before we get discovered. Our friends are always telling us that we’re such a character. You go to festivals and you meet directors, producers and other actors… and then the bubble bursts. You begin to realize through meeting some of the actors that it requires so much dedication, acting classes, countless auditions, long hours, great patience, a thick skin, incredible confidence and resilience. 


One talented actress that knows all about the commitment and dedication to the craft is actress Doralynn Mui. She has joined the cast of Riverdale and has become part of the close-knit class of four last year. In addition to the series Doralynn has been in over 24 productions including The 100, Siren, Deadly Class and Four Walls. We had a chance to meet up for a coffee to discuss her role as Joan in Riverdale as well as the path that led her there.        


“Congratulations on joining the cast of Riverdale. Can you please tell me about your character?”

“My characters name is Joan and I’m coming into it in the fourth season. Jughead transfers to a new school for the very rich called Stonewall. He joins an exclusive writing class for the top writers in the school. I also go to the school and happen to be very privileged and the richest of the rich. My character is very smart and thinks that everybody else is beneath her.  She loves to manipulate and play with people to see how they tick and for personal entertainment but it’s also a method she uses to bond with them.”


“You seem like such a sweet person. Is it difficult to play a mean spirited character?”

“Thank you for saying that because I’ve been cast as a mean person so many times. I also get cast as an airhead actress a lot too; the kind that treat people badly.  In my real life I like to be a kind person because everyone has the power to and it costs you nothing. I think it’s easy for me to tap into the mean streak of other characters because I’m getting to explore something that I don’t play out in my real life.”


“Playing the role of a very rich student must come with some sweet perks. Do you have a fabulous wardrobe?”

“Ohh yes, but they put us in the uniform most of the time. I think it’s part of the character and they’re just so preppie that they live in their uniforms. When I do get the chance to wear other clothes, they’re very fancy. One time I was wearing a skirt with the tag attached. Wardrobe told me not to rip it off in case it didn’t fit. The tag said 600.00. It’s not how I dress; I like to shop at the thrift store (laughing).”


“What types of characters have you played in the past?”

“I think my favourite character to play in a show so far was an assassin in Deadly Class. It’s also in a boarding school setting and her best friend was killed, so she’s out to get revenge and start a war within the school. She’s very tough and I loved playing her. I also got to fight in it too, so that was fun.”


“Do you know martial arts or did you have to train?”

“I really love to take classes and from time to time I’ll take some kickboxing or Kung Fu. I’ll usually only go once a week, so I’m no expert and only know a little bit… enough to kill (laughing)! I need to practice more though because I received a message from the stunt team suggesting I increase my kickboxing classes in the event that the show gets picked up for a second season. I was a little overwhelmed on the last season. I came in toward the end of the season and on the first day I was handed a knife and told ‘lets go’. We had a stunt rehearsal the day before but they told me there were some changes to the choreography. I was fighting Lana Condor, who’d already been training for months and was super fit. The classes I’d taken weren’t quite enough to help me get into the mindset. Another thing I came to realize in a fight scene is that you strike to hit. It’s up to the other actor to know it’s coming and dodge out of the way. I forgot to move in a fight scene and had a bruise on my cheek the next day.”        


“Do you now shy away from roles that have fight scenes or do you still go after it?”

“No, I totally go after it. Everything scares me but I like doing things that scare me. It’s definitely what I want to do so I’ll be training more to be better prepared for the next one.”

“When did you first get the acting bug?”

“When I was young I used to put on soap operas for my friends and would be able to cry on cue. I liked doing that stuff but I didn’t think acting was a real job. I thought you already had to be famous to be able to do it. In grade seven I remember having 2 lines in a play and I was so excited. Although I’m shy, it’s very different being onstage and saying the lines. I think it’s something I’m drawn to that helps me to break out of it. After high school my sister Danette found this website, Vancouver Actors Guide. It’s a website for actors in Vancouver. There was a forum where actors could talk about their experiences/offer advice and actors could audition for projects. It’s a great resource for actors. I started doing some auditions through there and acting in a lot of short indie projects. I had told myself to have fun with it and not to take it serious or as a job. I kept doing it before realizing I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t see myself having this much fun doing anything else. I made the decision to wade in, get an agent and keep doing it.”


“If you’ve got a scene coming up next that makes you nervous, do you have any tricks to shake off the nerves?”

“I’ll actually try to use the nerves to fire up the characters emotions to make the scene happen. If the character is suppose to be nervous, bingo! You can use the real nerves for that. I did an indie film called Four Walls that is coming out sometime this year. The role made me a little nervous because it was opposite of myself and my character had to be very shallow but comfortable. The character was an actress at a party and the shot was an ensemble of a lot of people and me having fun, which can be scary because the real social anxiety can start kicking in. I told myself I was a little drunk in order to ground myself to the scene.”      


“Have you had any roles that required a lot of research?”

“Maybe not so much research but in the film Bunny Man I had to deliver all my lines in Mandarin. It took a lot of time to do it correctly because the character speaks it fluently. In terms of other research, there was this mornings audition where the character had an asthma attack, so I had to research some asthma symptoms and attacks on Google and Youtube.”


“You mentioned earlier that your sister has helped and supported you, is she also in the business?”

“She’s not but she’s like my best friend and very supportive… she knew it was something I always wanted to do. She helps me with my lines all the time and… I wonder if she regrets it, cause I need a lot of help all the time (laughter). She even helps with scene study and gives me notes. She’ll even ask me to try it different ways.”


Throughout Doralynn answering the question about her sister, she had to fight back tears. The bond they share together was so evident and warming, it even choked me up. She holds her sister in high esteem and in today’s world, that can seem to be a rarity.  


“Have you ever had to cry in a scene/film?”

“Oh yeah, all the time, especially when you’re a female actor, you always have to cry. I’ve talked to some male actors though that say they can’t cry and will use a tear stick. Every other audition we have to cry.”  


“How would you go about motivating yourself to cry?”

“For me, it’s 100% empathy; having empathy for the character you’re playing. If I can really empathize with what they’re going through then it will happen. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay too, as long as you don’t force it. In my first project, it was a pilot for APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) and in the audition, her monologue is saying that her husband is not very good and she starts crying. I couldn’t cry and didn’t want to force it. I ended up getting the part. I think some people went in focusing on the crying but you need to focus on the story/message you’re telling. If the tears come, it’s a real good bonus.”


“Aside from acting, do you have any hobbies?”

“I love thrift shopping, garage sales and finding old things. I also love learning new things, so I’m always taking new classes. I’m taking Mandarin and just started a class in BAR. BAR is a mix of ballet and palates. Different dance classes like Hip-hop and jazz class are also fun.” 


“As an actor I know you have to be able to play many characters and do many different scenes. How is your boyfriend with you kissing another man in a scene?”

“It’s so funny you’re asking that because when we first started dating I asked him if he’d be okay with me kissing other guys, cause I’m an actor and it’s going to happen. He said he was fine with it but we’ve been dating for almost 6 years now and I can tell it bothers him. When he sees me kissing on screen he’ll look away. Kissing and acting on set is very technical and there’s nothing romantic about it.”


“In terms of directors, is there anyone that comes to mind that you’d like to work with?”

“Even locally I’m excited to work with director Peter Bryant. He’s also my mentor and actor that plays principal Weatherbee. We’re sort of working on a short film together and I’m really excited to have him direct me. I’ve taken classes with him and he really knows how to get the most out of my performance. I think any director that can bring out emotion and motivate my character to respond through his language. I don’t really have a wish list of directors but maybe I should start one.”

“When you’re working on a set, what gets you excited to go in everyday?”

“It’s the crew and the great people I get to work with. When I like the people I’m working with it’s a lot of fun. In Riverdale, I’m part of a class of four and I’ve worked with two of them before but all three are so amazing, so much fun and they’re all Canadian actors.”


“Is it difficult to memorize large segments of dialogue?”

“When I have large monologues I’ll go through it and instead of trying to memorize the words, I’ll use this trick called Actions, where I’ll go through each line to figure out what I want to do before moving onto the next line. By the time I figure out the subtext it’s almost all in there so I’ll go through it one more time to memorize it word for word to make sure its perfect.”


“Would you have a rehearsal for every scene?”

“No, sometimes you’ll just go in and block the scene and have a read through rehearsal to show camera where to go and then you shoot the scene. It moves very fast and with Riverdale I believe I found out I booked the role a week before I started.”


“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“I’d like to see myself as a regular on a series. I like the stability of that (laughter) and getting to know the character more intimately. I’d also like to venture into feature films as well but stay in Vancouver because my family is here and I love living here. I’d be willing to travel for projects and then come back.”


“Have you had much opportunity to travel for a film?”

“I did, not too far; Pearse Island near Victoria. You need to take a private boat there and everyone on the island drives golf carts. They have a community board and the whole town was helping us shoot. I stayed over there for a few days. It was a short film called All in Madonna and it recently played at VSFF.”


“What genre would you like to act in the most?”

“I do love dramas because those are really fun to do. They’re meaty and the characters have such clear motivation, the work does itself for you and you know what you’re doing and it helps you make your choices. I’d also like to do some comedy but we don’t really get a lot of that here.”


“How far in advance would you receive the script for Riverdale?”

“Hardly in advance at all. They’re really nervous about spoiling anything.  I’ll find out that I’m shooting next week and only get the script 3 days before the episode. There was a scene where one of our teachers jumped out the window and we only found out a couple days before we shot the scene. I think it’s how they keep people on their toes. There isn’t much advance notice so it keeps it exciting.”


“Have you ever been in a situation on set where you’ve had to do multiple takes in a scene?”

“I did a pilot when I was first starting out in acting, I was playing a Korean actress that was spoiled and rich. There was a monologue in Korean and I don’t speak Korean, so I memorized it by sounds. When I finally got through it everybody started to clap, it was so embarrassing (laughing). The director was like, ‘okay, we got it. Let’s move on.’ It was quite a few years ago but a little embarrassing.”


“Considering you’re Canadian Chinese, do you get cast for other Asian roles that aren’t Chinese?”

“I have, I’ve played someone who was Korean, someone who was Japanese but most of the time I do get Chinese. I believe we need much more representation for Asian people in general. I see it as an American person playing a English person or someone who’s Irish playing a English person. But I feel like if the story is specific to a certain country, I would definitely take that into consideration.”


Another terrific interview with an amazingly talented young actress. Doralynn Mui’s passion for embracing challenging roles is garnering attention from producers and casting directors. I predict great things and anticipate Doralynn one day having her own show.


You can catch Riverdale on The CW Network and Netflix.   


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